“You’re just going to let me leave the hospital with this baby?” I asked cocking my head towards the bundle in my arms.
“Don’t worry Mom, you’ll do fine!” Cassie, a god send in scrubs, tells me.
“Do they teach you labor and delivery nurses to call your patients Mom? Is that some sort of Jedi mind trick you are using on me to increase my confidence?
“I have rolled some women outta here with babies in tow whose maternal instincts were questionable at best. Trust me, you got this. You got the instincts.”
“Yeah, well don’t forget the cat-like reflexes.”
“Rarrr.” I whisper into my babies tiny ear.
“Rarrr!” Cassie claws the air by my ear and parks my wheelchair on the curb. We wait in silence for my ride home.
But I didn’t completely trust Cassie’s opinion, or my maternal instincts. I always questioned my choices and at times I questioned my very sanity; especially in the very early infant days. Sleep deprived from late nights feeding and changing I would stare down at my son until he started to resemble more of a woodland creature, a Sprite or a Nome perhaps, then a human infant. Or, I would be startled from a very shallow sleep, certain I had heard his tiny cry, and when I crept into his room he was sleeping soundly, purring like a kitten. I confessed to my very best friend, “I know this sounds weird, but I actually don’t mind the smell of Leo’s dirty diapers. In fact, they kind of smell good to me.” Ok, even I knew that sounded bat shit crazy.
I’d never doubted myself more than the first time I had to care for my sick baby. I was terrified and felt utterly incapable. “Where are my instincts now?” I whispered as I frantically googled symptoms and entered every Ask-A-Nurse hotline I could find into my speed dial.
Eventually I began to realize that every illness is not an emergency and that, to some extent, I know what to do when Leo gets sick. When he comes down with a little stomach bug, I calmly take his temperature and I only have to recheck it once or twice, you know, to account for possible thermometer malfunction. I go to the store and pick up all the staples, ginger ale, and bread to make toast, a new picture book and some Lysol wipes. I put the little one to bed and I even refrain from making a doctor’s appointment until I see how he is feeling the next day. I am satisfied, I am confident, I am using my instincts. Until I open up the ol laptop and start a search on WebMD. Now I am paranoid all over again.
Now that I am in four years deep, I no longer fear a serious malfunction of my instincts on a daily basis. I don’t worry that I will serve him rancid meet, or scald him in the bathtub or profoundly screw up his psyche every time I tell him “No.” But, I still don’t completely trust my gut level instincts as a mother; I always double-check my first reaction.
Recently my primal Mama instincts kicked me in the gut so hard that I didn’t pause to doubt, like a lioness, I just ran.
Fiancé and I were on our way to Chicago for a much-needed vacation. We exited the train and were making our way towards the mammoth escalator that leads up to the terminals when I spotted an Amish family walking carefully through the crowd. Time almost seemed to slow and the crowds parted to let them make their way toward the train. The train doors opened and from under the wide rim of their black and grey hats I could see the looks of fright and wonder on their usually stoic faces as they boarded.
It happened so fast. The train doors started to close. “Please stand back, the doors are now closing. Please stand back, the doors are now closing. These doors will not reopen,” said the voice of the train. A little Amish boy, no more than six years old, had been left on the train platform. From the inside of the train his mother is desperately pounding on the doors and his father is looking around horrified as if he has seen the devil himself. The boy’s face crumples and he bursts into tears as his entire black and gray clad family is whisked away to some unknown world by a talking devil train.
“Babe!” I tapped Fiancé on the shoulder, causing him to look in the direction I was already running. I made a bee line for that little boy. Moments before I was about to scoop that rustic baby into my arms and get him some help; an older version of myself swooped in and gathered the boy into her arms.
“It’s ok, sweetheart. I’ll stay right with you until we get you back with your family.” She enveloped him in her bohemian scented, shawl wrapped, bangle decorated arms. This woman had twenty-five years on me but she still managed to beat me to the boy, and from a greater distance. Now she was whipping out a Kleenex from her gypsy sack. A pro. A maternal powerhouse.
We sized each other up and had a brief conversation just by looking at each other.
“You got this?” My eyes asked.
“I got this.” Her eyes replied.
“Thanks.” Mine said.
“Thank you.” Hers said with a smile. I patted the boy’s head and told him with my hand, “You’ll be fine. She knows just what to do.”
I turned and walked back towards Fiancé who was waiting just outside the protective circle that passing women had made around us. We made our way to our gate and boarded our flight.
The plane took off and my heart soared. I did it! It took a dramatic Amish airport scene, like something out of a made for TV movie, but I did it. Momma instinct kicked in and I ran, no fled, to that little boy. I never stopped once to think about missing the flight, or what I would do with him once I got to him, or if he would even want my help. I just ran and God help anyone who got in my way. For once, I was on the inner circle of the mothers. I had trusted my mother’s instincts and it felt good.
“Rarrr!” I whispered, clawing the air all the way to Chicago.